Monday, November 11, 2013

Hartland Institute

Well, this last week has certainly been interesting.

Before I left Columbia, MD, I carefully planned where I'd spend my weekends, all the way to Florida. I wrote up an itinerary, and was slightly concerned about the next couple weeks on account of mileage, but was sure everything would work out.

It wasn't until Monday afternoon when I finally made it out of Columbia, and I didn't get far before dark. Well, I can catch up on mileage later in the week.
Out back of a church I slept at.
Tuesday, after practically freezing the night before, I made my first priority to buy some warmer clothes at a second hand store somewhere. I ultimately had to go to three locations before finding what I needed, and each spot was further from my intended destination. But I did find what I needed, at a rather reasonable price - gloves, pants, and shirt, for $13.

By this time I was a day and a half behind on mileage. Fortunately, I was able to re-route further south (vs. more west), and save 80 miles over a two week period.

On Wednesday I made 42 miles, which on the scale of the last couple weeks isn't bad at all - but still less than I needed to in order to reach my intended destination.
I saw a whole community of houses built on stilts like this. Maybe it was a camp, I don't know. Must have problems with ground moisture? 
The cable ferry I took across the Potomac from Maryland into Virginia. 
Oh, and the warmer clothes I bought? I found them entirely too warm, as temperatures went into the mid-70's during the day, and not below 50 that night.

Also, I'd failed to make contact with anyone at my intended destination. It always seems on this trip that when I simply cannot make contact with anyone, it's an early warning that my plans are about to change, making such contacts irrelevant. But not to get ahead of myself..
Lots of construction of large homes in this area.
Thursday morning I got a decent start, and found the hills to not be too much of a challenge.. If you've been following my trip closely you may know that in 4 months I've encountered very little rain. It did start raining after I hit the road, not enough to be miserable - especially as it wasn't overly cold - just enough that I put on my rain jacket to stay drier.
Of the older homes such as this, it was frequent to see several stages of construction. The stone part is probably over 200 years old, the log part (far left), is probably closer to 100 years old. Looks like 4 separate add on projects.
I came to a four way intersection, and was directed onto a gravel road. I went a ways, but thought certainly there was a better route.. So I switched from bike directions to car directions. It saved a mile. Backtracked, took another gravel road.. Maybe it won't be as long.

However, this gravel road was much worse than the former - single track, loose gravel towards the middle.

I came to a hill, and for some reason thought I'd see how fast I could get going - maybe I could break my former gravel road speed record, since it has been a standing record the entire trip.

Unfortunately the road was worse than I'd realized, and I drifted to the middle, where the gravel was a couple inches deep. Flying downhill at 27 miles per hour, my bike started wobbling, then spun sideways, quickly skidding to a stop, with the back wheel ahead of the front. As the velocity of my bike changed rapidly, my own velocity remained relatively consistent, so I was temporarily propelled through the air, making landfall about 6 feet from my bike.

The first thing I did after sitting up was to thank God it was raining, as my jacket certainly prevented me from getting scratched or scraped up. However, my wrist appeared sprained. A couple guys in a small car came down the road, and seeing my situation, offered to give me a ride to a medical facility. They were unable to take my bike, however, so stored it behind a rock wall, while I marked the spot on my phone so I could some back.

At the urgent care center, I was told I had indeed sprained my wrist, though nothing worse than that, and that I shouldn't use it for a week.

Well, cool! I can take a week of riding! I think I could use the break.. 

I don't think I've ever been more stranded in my life. There I was, at the Urgent Care center, 20 miles from my bike and most of my stuff, no where to go, and no way to get there. My nearest definite contacts were hours away. Obviously I was going to need more than just a contact, I'd need somewhere to stay for a few days to regroup and recuperate. 

I tried calling a few churches, and even a few WarmShowers contacts, but was unable to get through to anyone. Finally I decided to call Hartland Institute, a self supporting Adventist health and education center, about an hour and a half from where I was. I had stayed with the parents of a staff member when in New York, and just that morning got a message recommending I visit the place from another friend, though it had been out of my way, so I didn't plan to. But, at this point, what options did I have?

I was put through to Mr. Reichard who said he'd come for me in a couple hours and take me down.

At this point I realized how good it was that, when the guys that gave me a ride to the medical center grabbed my backpack, my sweat shirt and warmer pants which I'd looped through the shoulder straps came along with me. I had to wait till dusk, and got slightly cold even as it was.
Finally, just after dark, I got back together with my bike after 7 hours apart. Everything looked ok, and we loaded it his Prius, to make the ride down. I realized just this morning that I must have left my helmet there.
The gate house, where I've been staying. 
The Mansion - the location of the cafeteria, library, chapel, offices, and Girl's dorm (upstairs).
As it turned out, I arrived at Hartland during a graduation weekend. At this school, graduations are really more testimony and mission report than celebration and fanfare, as the emphasis of the school is to train people to work in various missionary capacities in the US and around the world, and 4th year students are sent out on internships before returning. In this case the three graduates - an Australian, and a brother and sister from Argentina - had been evangelizing in Washington State, running a health center in Austria (unexpectedly), and working at a health center in Alabama, respectively. 
The graduates, Christian, Debbie, and Henry.
Now, to me, and all the staff and students here I've spoken with are in agreement, it's clear that God brought me to this school for a reason. I know many people are praying for me all along this trip, and as much as weather has been in my favor (cooler than normal in the Midwest, warmer than normal in the north east, drier than normal on the eastern and southern US), and my luck with roads - busy traffic right after dark, blind corners, narrow shoulders, and suddenly, no traffic till it straightens out, or, arriving at the worst intersections consistently at low traffic times (left turn at an intersection with 4 lanes each direction, only vehicles going my direction are also taking the turn), or how generally in passing on and off ramps I find a lull in traffic - it seems evident that God has indeed been looking out for me. I've almost come to take it for granted that forecasts of rain will dissipate, and that, generally, everything will work out wonderfully, and so haven't generally given God credit where due, but I think it time to change that now.
Nice to hear a choir again, wishing I were part of it.
In the last few days I've been here, I've come to like the place. At potluck at church a couple students invited me to go pray with them between going through line and eating. One student, who was working while I was sitting in the lobby, apologized for not having tried to help as he saw I was in need at the moment. While, as I discovered on reading the student manual, I've made numerous infractions on many rules while here, everyone has been quite forgiving, and I have only gotten the very slightest negative feedback from anyone, if that. So many people have come up and introduced themselves, and asked about my injury that I have difficulty remembering faces, let alone names. And all the while I'm inspired to be a better person, to be more focused, and more committed. 

Originally I intended to leave Sunday evening, but after a contact fell through, and I realized I was in no particular hurry, I've decided to stay another day or two yet, and am considering returning to attending school here, if God works things out...